The plans are a once in a lifetime opportunity
The plans are a once in a lifetime opportunity

A landmark project drawing on an ambitious vision to create a more vibrant, sustainable, and people-friendly town centre for St Helens has been formally submitted for a reserved matters planning consent today.

Phase 1 covers 24 acres and will see a tired shopping centre replaced with a new town centre featuring stunning new buildings and attractive public areas through a regeneration scheme being brought forward by St Helens Borough Council in partnership with the English Cities Fund (ECF).

The planning application covers a new Market Hall flanked by a mixed-use area set around a 120-bedroom globally branded hotel, 64 stunning new homes, a 75,000 sq ft office and 11,000 sq ft of modern retail space, along with extensive high quality public spaces.

A separate planning application in the next few weeks will cover the other main element of phase one – the replacement of an existing and outdated bus station with a new modern multi-modal transport interchange. It will be part-funded by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority as part of a major upgrade of sustainable travel facilities.

By re-imagining the space where the enclosed Hardshaw Centre currently stands, the project will create new public spaces, better walking routes, and invite nature to flourish in high quality landscaped areas. Enhanced by trees, plants and wildlife, the overall project masterplan will deliver a Biodiversity Net Gain for St Helens of over 1000%, changing the look and feel of the town centre.

To underline the project’s impressive sustainability credentials, all the new homes in the scheme have been designed to reduce energy bills and will meet the energy use intensity performance of a Passivhaus building – a standard used to reduce energy consumption through use of highly efficient insulation, airtight building envelopes, and other measures.

Councillor David Baines, Leader of St Helens Borough Council and Liverpool City Region Portfolio Holder for Net Zero and Air Quality, said: “We are ambitious for what can be achieved through this once in a lifetime regeneration scheme, and we should all be excited about what the future holds. A huge amount of work has already gone into bringing our vision for a re-vitalised St Helens town centre to the stage of a reserved matters planning application, including the relocation of many shops out of the Hardshaw centre and into Church Square Shopping Centre, and months of extensive consultation with the public, businesses and other stakeholders.

“We are determined to preserve and celebrate our local heritage in the detail and delivery of the project, but we are also looking to the future, with an attractive, thriving and sustainable town centre for families to enjoy. It’s not just about buildings and public spaces – it’s about the jobs it will create in the delivery phase and years to come, the children it will inspire, and the pride it will give all of us in our home. Ensuring we have a well-connected, modern public transport system is key to this, and that’s why I’m delighted with the ongoing work to deliver a new fit-for-purpose bus station. First impressions matter and it will create a positive arrival point into the town as well as being home to a hydrogen powered bus fleet, showing us leading the way on sustainable energy and transport just as we’ve led the way on so many things in the past.”

Mayor Steve Rotheram has set the Liverpool City Region an ambitious goal of achieving net zero by 2040, a decade ahead of the UK national target, and is acting as both a leader and facilitator, encouraging and supporting residents, communities, and businesses on the journey to a lower carbon way of living and working.

He said: “St Helens town centre is on an extraordinary journey of growth and, with such ambitious plans on the horizon, I’ve no doubt that we’ll be expecting to see much higher numbers of visitors over the next few years. That’s why it’s vital that we invest in quality, sustainable travel infrastructure to make sure the town can keep up with the increased demand.

“Once complete, this new interchange will be the first of its kind to be delivered under our franchised bus network – a move which is going to be nothing short of transformational for our area. St Helens will be the first to benefit from franchising and, together with our new publicly owned fleet of hydrogen buses on the busy 10A route and £2 bus fares, we’re setting a new standard for public transport in the town. Thanks to devolution, we’re well on our way to building a London-style transport network that’s faster, cheaper, cleaner and better connected.”

Stuart Rogers, Director of Project Management at the English Cities Fund, commented: “Sustainability has driven every decision taken on this once-in-a-generation project and the design of new buildings reflects a belief we share that the future has to be shaped by reducing our impact on the environment. The Market Hall and new office, for example, will use exposed structural timber to create a modern, wooden environment, which significantly reduces the embodied carbon of the buildings. Our ambitious approach to sustainable design brings a range of health and wellbeing benefits. There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that the right environments enhance creativity, focus and productivity.”

Aside from creating a new and sustainable town centre, with spaces to be enjoyed by children and families, the redevelopment will deliver significant social value in direct support of the council’s recently adopted Inclusive Growth Strategy. Phase 1 is expected to have a strong impact in terms of employment and Gross Value Added (GVA) – some 485 new jobs will be created across the development once it is fully occupied, generating £23.2 million GVA each year.

The project is backed by St Helens Borough Council in the form of a £69.2 million funding package confirmed for phase 1. Support has also been made available in in the form of £21.49 million in grants from the UK Government and equity investment by ECF. Specifically, there are two related UK Government Town Deal grants totalling £10.49 million. The phase one proposals have also been awarded £0.812 million from the One Public Estate Brownfield Land Release Fund to help deliver the residential element.

Subject to planning approval, the scheme will start on site in 2024. The anticipated timeline will begin with the demolition of the Hardshaw Centre through to completion of all the elements within phase 1 in late 2026.

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